To see the scale of the problem take a good look at the Euromyths website. There it all is, neatly arranged in alphabetical order. Some of the references are comical, others are somewhat sinister. Of the 647 entries listed, 538 are attributed to UK newspapers. Of those 538 the top ten most frequently cited newspapers account for 420 entries. By any reckoning this amounts to a sustained campaign. The top ten are:
The Daily Mail 94
The Sun 75
The Daily Express 65
The Daily Telegraph 58
The Times 43
The Sunday Telegraph 22
The Mail on Sunday 18
The Daily Star 17
The Sunday Times 14
Evening Standard 14
The effort is, of course. more concentrated than this: Rupert Murdoch owns (via a labyrinth of companies and trusts) The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times, accounting for 132 entries; Associated Newspapers owns another three of the titles, The Daily Mail, The Mail On Sunday and the Evening Standard (a minority interest in the Evening Standard after 2009), accounting for 120 entries; The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph, owned ultimately by Press Holdings, account for 80 entries. So just three organisations own eight of the top ten titles accounting for 80% of the top ten’s entries. It is, perhaps, no coincidence that ownership of all three of these organisations can be traced to offshore trusts. They are, for tax purposes at least, foreign-owned.
As a counterpoint to all this, it is worth examining a rather different appraisal of the various positions adopted by the Leave campaign. This catalogue of contradictory invective is remarkable for the way it demonstrates an equally complete disregard for recent historical fact once bogus and sensationalist (e.g. bananas and sausages etc.) attacks on the EU’s fictionalised mania for standardisation are filtered out.
So how is it that this extraordinary propaganda campaign should have arisen? How can it be explained? What purpose has it served? There are two candidate explanations:
- These newspapers have attempted to sustain circulation by tapping into and feeding latent xenophobia amongst their readership.The stories, howver absurd or counter-factual they might be, find consonance with a deap-seated, centuries old, suspicion of Europeans and things European. Readers and writers are locked into a symbiotic celebration of irrational prejudice, each feeding the other’s disregard for truth.
- A few offshore UK media owners have been fearful of possible EU action on media ownership and its concentration. If the EU were to act on this their position might be threatened: UK media/newspaper ownership has become more concentrated; UK media/newspaper owners have very limited means to shape opinion beyond the UK, and therefore to prevent any EU action that they might perceive to be to their disadvantage.
These explanations have an eerie congruence: certain newspaper owners are content to allow their publications to foment myths and absurdities, stories they know to be untrue, because this positioning serves their deeper business purpose; these untrue stories strike a profound irrational chord with their readership and are good for circulation; readers are unwilling to challenge or disbelieve these stories for reasons that they themselves scarcely understand.
There may be other explanations, but the fact remains that there has been a sustained propaganda campaign against the EU, and that, in its propagation of insidious Euromyths, it has consistently come from a restricted number of sources. The similarities in ownership of these sources must stand as a strong indicator of motivation.
(Statistical research by Emily Schierig)